Friday, December 14, 2012

Puzzles with no Solutions

Did you ever struggle to complete a crossword puzzle without the solution at hand? Ever hear a riddle to which no one has the answer?

That has been my fate recently. The Ladies Fashionable Repository, which I discussed in a past post, was very fond of publishing puzzles and conundrums, riddles, anagrams and charades. But, as is the way with very old journals, not all issues are available, and so I have found enigmas without resolution.

In celebration of the holiday season, however, I thought I would share these charming puzzles with you. This is the season, after all, for parlour games and jigsaw puzzles, those fiendish metal contraptions that must be separated and put back together, and a myriad of other intriguing and frustrating brain-teasers.

Our Regency counterparts enjoyed them as much as we do, and The Ladies' Fashionable Repository supplied their desire for diversion and amusement.  The puzzles I present here date from between 1809 and 1814.

Obvious questions spring to mind in considering the puzzles. How much do Regency mores and manners inform the questions? How much knowledge of the period is required for solution? In many cases I think the answer would be--a great deal.

The conundrums are quick and confusing.

The terminology of puzzling has changes somewhat in the two hundred years since these were published. Riddles appear to be much the same then as now, but rebuses seem to have a more pictorial emphasis today than in the Regency.
Regency Charades seem to be completely different from their modern counterpart unless--do you think these are meant for performance?

I found this Prize Enigma utterly mystifying and quite delightful. And, I was thrilled to find the answer in another issue of the journal, with the winner's name included!

The wonderful language above in the prize award is redolent of Jane Austen's world, and of Washington Irving's Old Christmas.

I have run on rather long, but I had to include this last item. I have not discovered the link between the Repository and Ipswich, but you will note that one of the winners of the Prize Enigma above was from that town. I wonder if the beauties of Ipswich were offended or thrilled about the puzzle below:
 And I wonder what their parents and chaperons thought of their inclusion in a widely sold publication!

I hope you enjoy pondering these puzzles. If you would like to leave a solution to any (or all) of the puzzles, I will draw from among the comments for a prize on New Year's Day. The prize will be one of Shakoriel's charming Victorian poetry prints to brighten your wall in the new year.

I will be taking a couple of weeks' holiday now, and I will return on Friday, January 4 with more Regency research and inquiry. Until then ~~

Happy Holidays!


Friday, December 7, 2012

French Court Calendar January 1813

In the January 1813 Napoleon Bonaparte was fifteen months from his defeat, and his exile to the island of Elba. And he was twenty-nine months from his ultimate defeat by Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo. But in January of 1813 he was all-powerful, and he was taking steps to consolidate his position in Europe. In the January 1813 issue of the European Magazine and London Review, there appeared the following column:
There is more--more dukes, more marshals, more barons and counts of the empire. It is a chilling reminder of the pervasive nature of domination. Not only does the conqueror kill soldiers and civilians and thereby alter the fabric of society, but he rules by changing the leaders of that society.

Many of the dukedoms were 'victory titles'; that is, nominal titles without land attached given to victorious army leaders. Many of them died out in the middle of the nineteenth century. The awards that must have hurt nations most were those where the French used  ancient titles such as the Duke of Istria, Duke of Abrantes, and the Duke of Florence--a title associated with the great Medici family.

This practice was used with great effect by Bonaparte in peopling the royal houses of Europe with his own family members. I find the top of the list chilling: King of Spain, Sovereign of Holland, King of Naples, Viceroy of Italy, and on, and on.
Hortense Bonaparte, Holland
Hortense de Beauharnais, daughter of Napoleon's empress, Josephine, was married to his brother Louis and became Queen Consort of Holland.

Joseph Bonaparte, Spain
Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon's older brother, became first King of Naples and then King of Spain. After Napoleon's defeat and his own abdication, he spent many years in the United States, where he sold the jewels of the Spanish crown, which he had stolen.
Elisa Bonaparte, Tuscany
Elisa Bonaparte, sister of Napoleon, was made Grand Duchess of Tuscany--inserted into a position some four hundred years old. She was despised by her 'subjects', and suffered much for her brother's cause. She was even imprisoned for several months.

How many of Bonaparte's family were truly overjoyed by their elevation? How many resented being treated as chess pieces in his game of domination in Europe? The wealth and power would have been difficult to reject no doubt, but the sense of manipulation must have eaten at their hearts and minds.

And ultimately, how many of Bonaparte's pawns benefited in the long term? Many retired into obscurity on his defeat. Some died. Some like the royal family of Sweden, descended from Marshal Bernadotte of France, prospered.

The list that the European Magazine published must have helped the English to keep the French usurpers and puppets straight in their minds. It certainly helps us to see the breadth and depth of Napoleon Bonaparte's subjugation of Europe.

'Til next time,